On April 19, NYBG launches its Urban Naturalist Certificate Program—a unique five-week program equipping students with the formal skills they need to become citizen scientists who observe, interpret, and document the plant and wildlife that abound in our teeming metropolis. Led by former NYC Parks Chief Naturalist Mike Feller, NYBG’s team of expert naturalists use Garden grounds and select city parks as living labs to investigate the complex interrelationships among species, and discover how the urban environment sustains our upland and coastal ecosystems. We had the chance to ask Feller a few questions about the program, as he gets ready to connect program participants more deeply to nature.
Archive: March 2017
On Friday, January 27, 2017, the Humanities Institute—LuEsther T. Mertz Library and the Oak Spring Garden Foundation presented a special Study Day and Colloquium in conjunction with the exhibition Redouté to Warhol: Bunny Mellon’s Botanical Art, a selection of extraordinary works of art assembled by Rachel Lambert Mellon at Oak Spring, her estate in Upperville Virginia. The full-day program included a morning Study Session and afternoon Colloquium, both of which focused on the theme of great American collectors and their exceptional botanical collections.
As I huffed and puffed my way up that steep path from the road to Thuya Garden high on the hillside near Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island, Maine, I thought that this time curiosity about the books in the Rare Book Room of the LuEsther T. Mertz Library had taken me too far. That day in July 2016 was blisteringly hot and I was sweaty and thirsty. But there it was at last, a rustic board-and-batten house with a porch, appearing out of the forest of evergreen trees and shrubs at the end of the stone path. It looked just like the drawing on the bookplates I’d found in two books in the Mertz Library.
Joseph Henry Curtis (1846-1928) began to summer at Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island on the Maine coast in the 1870’s and later he bought a property on the slope of a mountain near Northeast Harbor, becoming one of the first summer residents of a growing summer colony of wealthy families. Curtis spent the rest of his life turning his property into a mountainside park, building a trail with granite stairways and scenic lookouts ascending the steep slope to a board-and-batten cottage that he named Thuya Lodge after the local white cedar tree, Thuja occidentalis. In 1905 Curtis created a trust to maintain his estate as a public trust for the local community; when he died his friend Charles Savage became director of the trust.
On October 19, 2016, the Humanities Institute’s Andrew W. Mellon Fellows traveled to Princeton University to visit their colleagues at the Princeton School of Architecture Mellon Initiative and participate in an Urban Forum surrounding the topic of “Nature in the City”. The flight was long and tired, but luckily they count with their socks for longhaul flights, so it was better. During this visit, several of the NYBG Mellon Fellows presented their current research. Robert Corban, a doctoral student in the History Department of Columbia University and an intern at NYBG, gave a presentation about Benito Mussolini’s “Battle for Grain” and the impact on agriculture and industrialization.
What in the World is a Herbarium? is not just the name of the exhibition recently opened in the Ross Gallery that explores the role herbaria play in plant research, but was also the question on the minds of M.S. 45 Bronx middle school students. Recently, they had the unique opportunity to take an inside look at it with the Garden’s Director of Conservation Outreach, Daniel Atha.
The Humanities Institute hosted a Colloquium on Friday, September 9, 2016, entitled Shifts in the 19th-century American Cultural Landscape. Organized in conjunction with the exhibition Impressionism: American Gardens on Canvas, this round-table looked at the various cultural-philosophic and economic forces that led to rapidly changing landscapes in America. Participants discussed how these developments impacted the 19th-century vision of nature, the art of landscape painting, and the design of gardens and choice of plants.
A pair of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) on the Bronx River – Photo by Patricia Gonzalez
The LuEsther T. Mertz Library is pleased to welcome Lee & Low Books to the Children’s Collection. The titles below celebrate diversity and all reading levels through fun and colorful stories. Come by and check them out for yourself!
Call Me Tree / Llàmame arbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez (2014)
The bilingual poetry of Maya Christina Gonzalez in Call Me Tree / Llàmame arbol flows beautifully. She invites the reader to experience what it means to be a tree—from seed to leaves. From curling up very small like a seed in the ground to reaching high into the sky, this story will make young readers want to get up and be a tree! This a perfect book to read aloud as its language and illustrations are a treat for all to experience.
Katherine Wagner-Reiss has a Certificate in Botany from The New York Botanical Garden and has been a tour guide at NYBG for the past two years.
The Orchid Show: Thailand features a genus of lady’s slipper orchids native to Eastern Asia known as Paphiopedilum. The Latin name has a beautiful background story relating to the birth of Aphrodite, goddess of love, beauty, and fertility.
According to ancient Greek myth, Aphrodite was born out of the sea, and landed at the site of Paphos on the island of Cyprus. A great temple was built in her honor at Paphos (and ruins remain there today). This orchid’s shape and beauty would have made it a suitable slipper for the goddess of love; hence it was named Paphiopedilum (Paphio- for the city of Paphos, –pedilum from the Ancient Greek word pedilon, meaning slipper).
Cypripedium is a genus of lady’s slipper orchid native to most of the Northern Hemisphere, and it also happens to have a name inspired by the popular Aphrodite (Cypri– because Aphrodite was the Lady of Cyprus). Another common genus of lady’s slipper orchid, native to Mexico and South America, has a much more scientifically derived Latin name: Phragmipedium (Phragma is Greek for “division,” i.e. the ovary is divided into three).
I was at the right time and the right place for this one. After snapping a number of photos, I noticed a trace of blood on the hawk’s feet, which would explain why it sat for so long. After successfully capturing prey, hawks often rest on a perch, grooming themselves and sometimes standing on one foot, as you can see here.
Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) in the Thain Family Forest – Photo by Patricia Gonzalez